Spokane, Washington [RenewableEnergyAccess.com] Potlatch Corp. is collaborating with several partners to study the feasibility of a pilot biorefinery for converting forest and agricultural waste to biofuels and other chemicals at its Cypress Bend, Arkansas, pulp and paperboard mill. The partners hope to receive a DOE grant to develop the biofuel production project.Potlatch officials and Winrock International, the University of Arkansas at Monticello, and the Division of Energy of the Arkansas Department of Economic Development are preparing a response to an expected January 2006 solicitation from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) for integrated biorefinery pilot projects. Harry Seamans, Vice President of Potlatch’s pulp and paperboard division, explained that the potential benefits for Potlatch are considerable, and could cut both natural gas consumption and purchased electricity very significantly. “Our Cypress Bend mill could potentially reduce natural gas usage by 1,600,000 MMBTU per year and purchased electricity by 80,000 MWH per year,” Seamans said. The support from Arkansas’ governor, Congressional delegation and partners are essential, explained L. Pendleton Siegel, Potlatch Chairman and CEO. Potlatch officials caution that biomass gasification is cutting-edge technology, with high technical and financial risks. “To make this project a reality, Potlatch will rely on the existing partners and seek additional partners. We must balance the company’s participation in the project with financial risks to the company’s shareholders,” Siegel said. “I appreciate the efforts of Potlatch Corporation to be an industry leader in looking at alternative sources of fuel and energy. This effort could provide a wonderful boost to the southeast Arkansas economy as well as give America another much-needed renewable source of energy,” said Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee. The project is an outgrowth of Potlatch’s participation in Agenda 2020 Technology Alliance, an industry-led partnership of government and academia to conduct collaborative forest industry technology research, development, and deployment. Potlatch is a diversified forest products company with timberlands in Arkansas, Idaho, Minnesota and Oregon.